Catholic Ecclesial Movements and New Communities
in the Archdiocese of Washington
“Living Witnesses to the New Evangelization”
What is an Ecclesial Movement or New Community?
It’s an association of persons (usually lay persons) approved by the Roman Catholic Church that is called together by God to share a common “Charism,” that is, a distinctive way of living the Christian faith.
Is there a Joint Body for these Associations in the D.C. Area?
Early in 2005, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick formed a new Committee of Catholic Lay Associations in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. composed of representatives from these ecclesial movements and new communities. His hope was that “by thinking, praying, and finding new ways to adore the Lord and serve his Church” (Cardinal McCarick, July 2004) these organizations would become better known and therefore more effective in sharing their gifts. The Committee meets regularly with a representative appointed by the Archbishop.
Who can belong to a movement or community?
The majority of people who belong to a movement or community are baptized lay people who may be either married or single. Many movements and communities have consecrated lay members who take promises or vows of poverty, chastity and obedience similar to sisters and brothers. Diocesan priests and men and women religious can also be active participants and full-time members.
How do participants interact with their local parish?
Most participants in movements and communities also belong to local parishes. As a fruit of their parish and spiritual life it is common to find them attending daily Mass, partaking of frequent confession and spiritual direction, and serving in various parish ministries. Typically lay persons discern over time that God is calling them to complement their parish involvement and daily life with a specific ministry and/or movement or community.
How does an ecclesial movement or new community come into being?
The birth of an ecclesial movement or new community is similar to that of a traditional religious order like the Benedictines, Franciscans and Jesuits. The Holy Spirit grants the founder or group of founders a special grace to live the Christian life with a unique charism, fervor and dynamism, which eventually attracts others and over time develops into a particular way of life. After a certain period (usually a number of years), the bishop will evaluate the movement’s statutes (basic laws and guidelines) and discern whether to formally approve it as an association of the faithful.
How do they serve people and the local Church?
They serve by helping both members and interested participants grow in holiness through a life of prayer, ongoing internal conversion, and personal formation. Although each movement/community is unique, many offer a variety of ministries including: retreat centers, schools, universities, and homes for the sick and disabled; missions to serve the poor, retreats and conferences, child, youth and family formation; and outreach via personal evangelization, newsletters, publishing, media and communications.
How do they nurture vocations?
Many of the movements/communities support and complement parish and family life by creating programs that form the spiritual, intellectual and social dimensions of children, adolescents and adults. These programs provide natural environments to nurture souls so they can discern where God is calling them, including married life, single life, priesthood, and religious or consecrated life.